About 45 people gathered in a circle in the freezing darkness outside Idaho's state prison complex this morning to protest capital punishment, as the clock ticks toward Idaho's first execution in 17 years. "This is a heartbreaking morning," said Mia Crosthwaite of Idahoans Against the Death Penalty. "It is good to be with other people." The group prayed for condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades and his family, and for his victims and their families, prosecutors, police and more. Some held signs, with slogans including, "Life in prison=Justice, Killing=Vengeance," "Cruel and unusual punishment" and "What would Jesus do?" Nearby, another group of seven people sat in a row in a silent vigil, facing the prison and the slowly lightening sky. At the circle, Crosthwaite told the group, "Today's execution is one more pain of so many."
Across the road, the space set aside for pro-death penalty protesters was mostly empty. Tasha Wiegand, a former eastern Idaho resident, stood at one edge of it, but said she and her son weren't taking a position for or against the death penalty; they were just there to support the family and friends of the victims, whom they knew. "I think this is where we need to be," Wiegand said.
Crosthaite said she and her group came out to the prison gate at 6 a.m. today to protest the execution. "We'll stay until it's over," she said. "It is cold. I was expecting a handful, so I'm glad there's so many people standing up together, and I think we're going to see more people come as the morning progresses."